Stern Review a Timely Reminder of Devastating Health Impact of Climate Change

31 Oct 2006

AMA President, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, today welcomed the Stern Review as a timely and authoritative reminder of the devastating health impact of climate change on the world's human population if the international community failed to act now.

Commissioned by the UK Government and prepared by former World Bank chief economist, Sir Nicholas Stern, the report has been described by British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, as the most important he has ever received.

Dr Haikerwal said the Stern Review is an international wake up call on climate change.

"It is the responsibility of all countries, but especially the developed countries of today to protect the human health and environment of the planet for future generations.

"The Stern Review encapsulates the human health concerns raised by the AMA in its Position Statement on Climate Change and Human Health," Dr Haikerwal said.

"Climate change will dramatically alter the patterns and rate of spread of diseases, rainfall distribution, availability of drinking water, and drought.

"Australia and its region are particularly vulnerable to these changes and we are already seeing the effects with drought in Australia and rising sea levels in the Pacific.

"The effects of climate change will hit poor and developing countries the hardest.

"As a wealthy nation and a prolific per capita greenhouse polluter, Australia must take heed of the Stern Review and show leadership with its response to climate change. We can't afford to sit back and wait for others to show us the way.

"The body of evidence and opinion and the international momentum on the need to combat climate change are now too great to ignore or oppose."

Last year, the AMA and the Australian Conservation Foundation released research on the health impacts of climate change in Australia, which showed the potential for up to 15,000 heat-related deaths a year by 2100. The research also showed that dengue fever transmission could extend as far south as Sydney.

Dr Haikerwal said human health ultimately depends on having a healthy environment to sustain us.

"Climate change is the biggest environmental and health challenge of our time.

"We need leadership from our governments with the support of business and the community to reduce greenhouse gas and air pollution to protect the health of all Australians and the wider global community.

"The AMA welcomes the Government's recent funding for renewable energy projects as a downpayment on the significant further action that is needed, " Dr Haikerwal said.

The AMA Position Statement on Climate Change and Human Health 2004 states:

  • The AMA believes that human health is ultimately dependent on the health of the planet and its ecosystem
  • The AMA believes it is possible to mitigate the possible consequential health effects of climate change through improved energy efficiency, clean energy production and other emission reduction steps
  • The AMA calls on the Federal Government to ratify and implement the Kyoto Protocol. Failure to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions has the potential to cause significant global public health problems
  • The AMA believes that an effective emissions control program could be instituted without having a negative impact on the Australian economy. This can best be achieved by combining energy conservation with new alternative technologies that would reduce dependency on fossil fuels
  • The AMA believes that the Federal Government should implement a National Greenhouse Policy that engages all Australians in ensuring that we meet the Kyoto target and start to dramatically cut our greenhouse pollution
  • The AMA recognises the importance of developing renewable energy sources as a means of affecting global climate change and its health ramifications. The AMA calls on the Federal Government to set a Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) of 10 per cent by the year 2010.
  • The AMA supports research, education, prevention, monitoring, and assessment relating to the public health issues that may arise from climate change.

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